Emotional and Physical Health Benefits of Expressive Writing
By: Andres Carvajal
Edited By: Stephanie Dawson
This is a widely used psychological technique that asks people to disclose their deepest thoughts and feelings regarding traumatic experiences, anything from the loss of a loved one, to an existential crisis or anger issues. This technique can lead to improvement of negative thoughts and feelings regarding any particular experience and to confront and heal wounds. Research shows that writing about our problems is more effective than just thinking about them. This cheap and useful technique will help you analyze related experiences toward a conscious processing of the stressful event, avoiding memory blockages. Expressive writing is a buffer between social support and adjusting the ego capacities to deal with certain situations.
Typically, the person who is in charge introduces himself, probably with some ice-breaking techniques like relaxation, deep breathing, then participants write privately in a notebook, diary, log or digital, you can write about stress-related emotions and thoughts for about 20 minutes 4-6 times per week. This seems very simple, just to write about what makes you mad, your broken heart, or failed dreams. Once you learn the technique its easy because you can do it in the convenience of your home.
How it works
There are several explanations in understanding the positive effects in many clinical trials. One is that this intervention allows individuals to address fears and anxieties that accompany negative experiences. Another explanation highlights the fact that many suppress negative thoughts or feelings, this is non-confrontational and leads to insight and consciousness. This intervention helps vent emotions and makes cognitive processing easier. What happened and why is often addressed in notes that can be enlightening and provide beautiful insights about every kind of experience.
• Beneficial in dealing with traumatic and stressful experiences.
• Good approach for those with difficulties disclosing emotional issues to others, or who have problems sharing their inner thoughts.
• Can help with different health conditions such as asthma, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain
• Has helped with cancer victims
• Reduction in depression symptoms
• Effective for dealing with trauma and loss
• Helps our thoughts become less biased by irrational beliefs
• Proven help with PTSD symptoms
• Effective with men’s emotional expression and helps diminish the restrictive emotionality that is culturally reinforced by the media and socialization through gender roles
• Less psychological distress and anxiety levels related to trauma
• Greater personal growth and increased self-control
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Pennebaker, J. W., & Beall, S. K. ( 1986). Confronting a traumatic event: Toward an understanding of inhibition and disease. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95, 274– 281.
Rosenthal, R., Rosnow, R. L., & Rubin, D. B. ( 2000). Contrasts and effect sizes in behavioral research: A correlational approach. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Sloan, D. M., & Marx, B. P. ( 2004). A closer examination of the structured written disclosure procedure. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 165– 175.